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Fiber Arts Trail turns craft into community

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The Threaded Streams Fiber Arts Trail, now in its second year, will open Thursday with 30 events across four cities.

Over three days, local creative types will tour and introduce themselves in Portage, Baraboo, Lodi and Prairie du Sac, and in some cases take the first steps to being professional artists.

“We call it a creativity weekend because our audience of enthusiasts who like to do road trips like this, they are lifelong learners,” said event organizer Jennifer Wilder, founder of the Wayzata, Minnesota-based Wildwood Press.

The project began with Wilder taking cross-country tours with her sister and sister-in-law in 2009. Wilder was a professional recruiter at a time when no companies were recruiting. In New Mexico, Wilder found a pamphlet at a yarn shop for the New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails.

“I was just like: ‘Wow, we have to do that in Minnesota,’” Wilder said.

In the meantime, she put together and published an art calendar book featuring 125 Midwest fiber artists, giving her a much better idea of the scope of that medium.

“I needed to learn about what people were doing and what they were making, and publishing those books was really instrumental, but now it is really about community building,” said Wilder.

Wilder took the idea of a Midwest fiber arts trail to the Wisconsin Museum of Quilt and Fiber Arts, and the first of the trails was organized in Cedarburg. About four years later, there are five trails, with two in Minnesota and three in Wisconsin, the most recent being added in Madison.

“It’s kind of like the fall art tour because it has Baraboo, Lodi, Prarie du Sac, and Portage,” said Rita Briant, owner of Prairie Flower Beads, who is hosting three workshops on necklace and bracelet making. “And we have some of the guest speakers in Portage this year.”

In its second year, new Portage businesses have joined in the project, which will also includes workshops at the Historic Indian Agency House.

Anne Katz, of Arts Wisconsin, will be the keynote speaker Friday night at the Portage Center for the Arts.

“I don’t live in that world, although I love all the things that people make,” said Katz, who lobbies and advises on the subjects of legislation, entrepreneurship, quality of life, civic impact of art and arts education. “What we try to do is bring everyone together to know how much the arts add to the education, economy and quality of life, and push that message that the arts are for everyone and that everyone is creative, and the arts are important to Wisconsin’s future.”

Part of the experience shared through the project is sharing heritage of 19th and early 20th century textile work and much older traditions from local native arts.

“The heritage that is expressed through the native arts and crafts is something we are trying to promote and speak up for,” said Katz. “We have wonderful artists all over in the state and the native artists that are working in fiber arts and it’s important to express creativity and it’s important to carry on the traditions of a people and it is important to Wisconsin’s life whether you are native or not.”

Events begin Thursday morning and conclude Saturday evening.

“One of the best parts are the relationships that are made between the trail members,” said Wilder. “Maybe they didn’t know people in Baraboo, but they do now and they work on projects.”

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